In recognition of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 13-19, Newton County is recognizing the people who staff the Central Dispatch Center, especially its director, Vickie Bayless.

Bayless was presented a plaque Wednesday by Marilyn Ruestman, presiding commissioner, in appreciation for Bayless’ 18 years of dedicated service to Newton County and the 9-1-1 Call Center.

“It’s nice to be recognized;” said Bayless, “I’ve always tried to put my best effort into the job.”

She said the staff of the Central Dispatch Center go to work each day with the goal of providing a good service to the citizens; and to be responsible for taxpayer money and try to spend it wisely.

Bayless said working in the center provides for some stressful times.
“The latest,” she said, “we had the Seneca police officer who was assaulted. That was a fairly stressful time — he had been knocked unconscious and then came on the radio and was still confused. We recently had the home invasion where the man was shot and killed. That was a very stressful time for us.”

She said some situations have provided long-term stress. “When the tornado hit in 2011,” Bayless said, “We took thousands of phone calls; a lot of overload calls that Joplin was busy and they came to us; a lot of people looking for help. When we had the tornado in 2008, it was an exceptionally busy time for us.”

With ever-expanding technologies, Bayless said it can be challenging to provide a quality service within a certain financial guideline; as well as to keep highly skilled personnel and keep them trained to ensure they are always providing the best service.

“There’s not a lot of room for error in a job of this type,” she said, “because people’s lives and property depend upon us getting the right information and getting the help to them that they need.”

Though stressful, Bayless said the job is very rewarding.

“Every day when you come to work you are helping people at their most stressful time, or, their most needy time, so every day when we come to work we are providing help to someone that needs help,” she said.

Upon presenting the plaque Ruestman said, “Truly this is just a recognition and appreciation award to a lady who has been with us for a very, very long time, and has done a really super job.”

Ruestman said only a few such awards have been presented to county employees in the three years she has been on the commission.
“We choose the people who really deserve it,” she said.

Ruestman described Bayless as very dedicated.

“She comes to us with several years of experience. She’s very serious; she trains her people very well and she comes in a lot of times maybe when she wouldn’t have to.” She summarized, “She’s just the kind of director that every department would like to have; she cares about her people, she cares about the public.”

Ruestman said Bayless has been very flexible over the years, beginning in 1995 in the police department, then moving to the basement of the courthouse, where the operation began to expand, necessitating hiring and training more employees. She said the center was then moved to its present location about three years ago, joining the emergency operations center in what used to be the National Guard Armory, all the while with evolving technologies.

After taking a recent tour of the 9-1-1 Center, Ruestman said she was amazed and shocked at the volume of calls, as they may receive a thousand within three days.

“You might have a suicide call, you might have someone choking, you might have an accident. And it is hard on these people, Ruestman said. “You’ve got to have a special personality to be able to talk with these people; walk them through it, and handle it. I really think the time we had the home invasion in Joplin it was very stressful on the entire crew because the gentleman, I think, was murdered while he was on the phone with these folks. They go through a lot of extraordinary stress, and they take this home with them.”

She said the many long-term employees in the Central Dispatch Center is indicative of the good job they do. Ruestman said the people who work the Central Dispatch Center are not out front.

“And a lot of people never even think about them being there,” she said.
Ruestman explained that she has begun writing a monthly “State of the County” column in the Neosho Daily News, showcasing a different county department each month; “Because we have many departments where no one even knows what they do.”